The skipper of a commercial fishing boat who killed 39 albatrosses while trawling for southern bluefin tuna off the West Coast this year, may have cost his employer his boat.

Daniel Joseph Smyth, 37, appeared in the Greymouth District Court this morning.

Smyth pleaded guilty to failing to use a device to scare seabirds away from the boat, the FV Kim Ocean, between April 8 and 25.

The charges were laid in the boat's home port city of Tauranga.

Advertisement

The Kim Ocean is owned by Callum Malloy Ltd, which also holds the fishing permit. Smyth was skipper and master of the Kim Ocean from April 8 to 25.

The court heard that fishing boat crews were required to use streamlines when setting longlines, as a way to scare off seabirds scavenging for fish.

Ministry for Primary Industries lawyer William Jennings said Smyth had 15 years' experience as a commercial fisherman, including trawling and gill netting, along with six years' experience of surface longlining.

In April, Smyth made two separate fishing trips targeting bluefin tuna off the West Coast. An MPI observer was on board for those trips.

Jennings said the observer told Smyth on at least two separate occasions, on April 12 and April 19, that he was required to use a streamer line.

Daniel Joseph Smyth pleaded guilty at the Greymouth District Court. Photo / Greymouth Star
Daniel Joseph Smyth pleaded guilty at the Greymouth District Court. Photo / Greymouth Star

On April 20 the observer and Smyth discussed setting up a streamer line, however Smyth continued to fish with surface longlines without using a streamer line.

In a later interview with MPI, Smyth said he did not use streamer lines because he was concerned for the safety of his crew and they cost him time and money when the streamer lines damaged the fishing vessel.

He admitted he told the observer on board the Kim Ocean, when discussing the use of streamer lines: "It's a hard one, you know? Because it's a law we have to use them but in my experiences over the last six years I've had nothing but f***ing troubles with the things."

The species of seabirds killed were 24 Pacific or Buller's albatross, 14 white-capped albatross and one wandering albatross. A white-capped and a southern royal albatross were released.

The case was adjourned for Smyth to reappear in the Nelson District Court on November 14.

Judge Jane Farish said no conviction would be entered until the issue of forfeiture had been considered.

Under the Fisheries Act any property used in the commission of an offence under that act is subject to forfeiture to the Crown upon a conviction being entered.

In this case that could include the fishing vessel Kim Ocean and any fishing gear used.

Seafood New Zealand supports the prosecution, saying the industry is "very disappointed" in Smyth's actions, which it labelled "totally out of line".

"We support the Ministry for Primary Industries in the action they have taken against him," chief executive Tim Pankhurst said.

"There is no excuse for his behaviour. He was required to use a tori line, a device using streamers to scare off birds.

"We are committed to ensuring that fishing does its part to prevent seabird capture and have introduced a raft of measures to protect seabirds."

Greymouth Star